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Hopoate's looming return excites Eels

Will Hopoate

Parramatta prop Darcy Lussick is backing former teammate Will Hopoate to pick up where he left off when he returns to the NRL from his two-year Mormon mission next season.
Hopoate's looming return excites Eels
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, Aug 12 AAP - Parramatta prop Darcy Lussick is backing former teammate Will Hopoate to pick up where he left off when he returns to the NRL from his two-year Mormon mission next season.

Hopoate's stunning first full season for Manly in 2011 saw him gain NSW Origin selection, win a grand final and sign a lucrative two-year deal with the Eels believed to worth in the region of $750,000 per season.

But the prodigiously talented 21-year-old opted to put his career on hold so he could fulfil his religious commitments with a mission in Queensland.

He'll link up with the beleaguered Eels for the first time when the team start pre-season training before Christmas and Lussick, who played with Hopoate throughout the lower grades at the Sea Eagles, said his time away won't blunt his ability.

"I can't wait for him to get here," Lussick told AAP.

"He's obviously spent two years away from the game, but he's such a natural athlete and he'll have no problem sliding back in.

"I was speaking to his dad the other day and he's really excited about coming here as are the rest of his family."

Eels skipper Jarryd Hayne returned to the side on Friday following a two-month absence with a hamstring injury and played a starring role from five-eighth in the win over Wests Tigers.

It was the first win for the blue and gold in 10 matches and it emerged after the game that Hayne asked coach Ricky Stuart to move from fullback to second receiver.

When coaching NSW, Stuart claimed Hayne was potentially better suited to five-eighth than fullback.

And should the premiership-winning mentor opt to keep him there Lussick believes Hopoate would be the ideal man to wear the No.1 shirt.

"He can play anywhere across the back-line," he said.

"He might be a wasted on the wing, centre would be his best spot. But we saw at Manly that he could play fullback equally well.


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